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ND Volleyball: Irish focus on themselves

Meaghan Veselik | Thursday, September 2, 2010

After a challenging Sunday match that ended in defeat against Arizona, the Irish are ready to take another stand this weekend as they travel to the Nevada Invitational in Reno, Nevada, to take on a trio of teams, Belmont, Weber State and Nevada.

But Notre Dame isn’t really worried about other teams right now. All Irish coach Debbie Brown and her players are focused on right now is their team.

“Our greater concern right now is how we’re playing and how we’re progressing,” Brown said. “Certainly we think that each of the teams will present different challenges for us but our main focus is on what we’re doing rather than what maybe our opponent is going to do at this point in the season.”

Placing the team first has been working for them so far. The Irish opened their season this past weekend at the Shamrock Invitational, where they defeated Marshall 3-1 and Cal Poly 3-2 but fell 3-1 to Arizona. Notre Dame knew the weekend would be a challenging one, especially with six freshmen making their Irish debut, but it was successful and gave Brown ideas of specific areas of play that her team needed to work on.

“What we will work on always throughout the season is our serve receive,” she said. “How we’re passing, how we’re handling the opponent’s serves and receiving serves from a lot of different areas on the court, different types of serves. We feel like our middle attack could be a little bit better in combination; if our passing is a little bit better then our middle attack could be better.”

Despite the need for improvement, a number of Irish players posted impressive stats in the Shamrock Invitational. Acing her way into her college career was freshman outside hitter Andrea McHugh, whose performance in the three matches earned her the Big East Rookie of the Week honor. McHugh readily made her presence known on the court at the Purcell Pavilion, recording two double-doubles with 11 kills and 16 digs against Marshall on Aug. 27 and 14 kills and 18 digs Aug. 28. She closed the weekend with 12 kills and a solo block, as well as had an ace in each of her three matches.

Also recording notable performances in the Shamrock

Invitational were Sciacca, Dealy, and sophomores Hilary Eppink and Marie Roof. Sciacca registered 48 kills and 12 blocks as Dealy struck down 38 kills, 4 assists, and 34 digs. Dealy was also the key player in bringing the Irish the win over Cal Poly with three consecutive kills in the fifth set. Eppink followed with 21 kills, six digs, and 12 blocks, as well as two aces against Cal Poly. Roof added in her own 10 kills, nine digs, and 12 blocks.

Freshman setter Sammie Brown, too, showed her skills on the court with 129 assists and 28 digs.

The players who were on the court last weekend aren’t the only ones on the coaching staff’s minds though.

“In practice we’ve tried to work on integrating some of the players that haven’t had an opportunity to play yet into the line up,” Brown said. “We have a lot of talent on the bench and we’re just trying to find ways to utilize the talent that we have.”

The Irish hope to utilize those talents this weekend with three matches in two days. Such a tight schedule on the road might also worry some teams and cause them to lose focus, but Notre Dame is excited instead.

“On the road, you’re with each other more, you’re thinking about and talking about volleyball more,” Brown said. “You’re not going back to your dorm room or someplace in between matches; you’re staying together. It’s actually a pretty fun thing when you’re on these road trips and the team gets to know each other better. I think that’s one of the things that helps the team gel so much.”

As they work to gel together and mix up the lineup, the Irish will take on Belmont Friday,at 4:00 p.m. Pacific before playing both Weber State and Nevada Saturday, at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., respectively.